Most writers are also avid readers. A love for telling stories tends to grow from reading them – just check out any author bio and you’ll see a familiar recurring theme of a childhood spent lost in books.
I read for a lot reasons: to experience the beauty of words and powerful storytelling, to discover new places and ways of thinking, to be entertained, and – of course – to escape reality for a while.
Friends have asked me if reading other authors influences my writing. I guess on some level it must, but I like to think of it more as inspiring my writing. There are books and writers who have changed the way I think about the craft of writing, based on the way they’ve told a story.
There are a handful of books that continue to inspire me to not just want to be a good storyteller, but also a better writer. Of course, that’s a journey I’ll be on until the day I write my last word…
Anyway, I thought I would list some of the key books that have inspired me, and (briefly) why. I should point out, that my work resembles none of them… (Markus Zusak once talked about how he loved Ernest Hemingway, but Hemingway would probably hate his books; I fear Markus – one of my favourite writers – may feel the same about mine…)
Truth by Peter Temple
Temple always blows my mind with his ability to fuse literary and genre writing. And not just for his brilliant plotting and characterisation: he writes dialogue that sounds so real, it redefines ‘realism’. His prose is sparse, with a unique pace and rhythm. And Temple forces the reader to work, which makes the journey that much more rewarding when all the pieces fall into place.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Speaking of sparse prose… This is a tense, moving and heartbreaking story, and it’s made all the more powerful by the fact there are almost no adjectives in the entire story. It underscores the fact that simple prose is often the most effective (especially in a story so remarkably profound).
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This book continues to challenge and frustrate people because of its ambiguous ending. I loved that ending. And the fact that so much more is going on with this book than what we read on the page. I had the chance to hear Martel speak at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival a few years ago, and he gave some fascinating insights into this book. I wrote about his session on Great Reads. It’s worth reading if you’re still scratching your head about the flesh-eating island…
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Like millions of readers, this was the story that opened up the world of fantasy to me as a teenager. The world building was so complete and unique, I was utterly lost in the adventure. And then I picked up The Lord of the Rings…
(All of the above feature on my Favourite reads page and you can find my reviews for most of them there.)
A last note: these are some of my all-time favourite books, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. There are many others I love as a reader. These are just a few that also deeply impress me as a writer.